BATTLE HYMNS FOR A NEW REPUBLIC
review by Jim Steel
This is the follow-up album to Operation: Chair Sit for this Alabama band. Now they're a four-piece outfit. Then they were a three-piece: two guitars and drums, which isn't the usual power trio line-up. The first track on Battle Hymns..., Hymn For Shedding Rust is a short slab of high-end noise that will have your dog leaving home. The first proper song, As The Pinson Turns, is more of an introduction to the new line-up, with the added depth of Jason Barker's bass filling out the sound. At times the vocals are not at the forefront of the mix and it'll take several plays to decipher them. Luckily the album easily stands up to this. It's very reminiscent of Fugazi, with its post-hardcore / post-rock sound, and could easily have fallen on its face.
Thematically, Plate Six take on religion here (or the plastic consumerism that passes for it in western Christianity). The Unmoved Mover and The Unblinking Eye (with its disturbing hints of funeral bells) address religion directly, and we can assume that it is something that grates when living in the Bible belt. As well as the opening track, they also present us with Hymn Of The Majuscule and Hymn To Denounce Time, also short instrumentals. It's not all hymns, of course. The last track is an anthem: the hypnotic and driven Maximalist Anthem.
Not many laughs then, and at first glance hardly likely to appeal to the emo kids either. But it is an accessible album if approached correctly. Guitarists David Hickox and Darryl Jacks play well off one another and are not afraid to give the songs the time that they need. The standout track, if you're looking for one to sample, would have to be Red: The New Black. If that works for you, then the other ten tracks should follow easily enough.
Battle Hymns For A New Republic is released on Bent Rail Foundation in America, a Birmingham co-operative that seems to be winding up its operation. Hope that doesn't mean the end for Plate Six. We need more from them.